Culture

A tribute to cycling journalist Pat Malach

This week the cycling world lost a friend and passionate voice in Pat Malach of Cyclingnews.com, who died at age 55. Our deepest condolences go out to his friends and family, and the entire staff at Cyclingnews.com.

This week the cycling world lost a passionate reporter and true friend, as Pat Malach of Cyclingnews.com died unexpectedly at age 55. Malach covered North American road racing for Cyclingnews.com and was a fixture at races like the Tour of Utah, Amgen Tour of California, and USPro Road Championships. He broke regular news and his reporting on topics such as youth development and up-and-coming riders fed the passion of cycling fans across the world. Our deepest condolences go out to Malach’s friends and family, and to the staff at Cyclingnews.com. Below are three remembrances from our contributors and staff. 

Casey B. Gibson

My friend Pat Malach passed away on Sunday. We had just talked on Saturday about planting some hops — two of the things he loved: Gardening and beer.

I had been a friend and admirer of Pat for many years, since we met at a bike race somewhere in the U.S. Redlands, Philly, Gila, or Utah; we shared press rooms, or what served as press rooms, all over the country, from the nice big rooms at the Amgen Tour of California, to a small cabin in Utah, or the Javelina Coffee shop in Silver City.

Pat and I worked for different publications, but always shared information and ideas when we sat down to post our photos and articles. We would spread out computers and race results on a table, grab coffee, and talk about the race for hours as we worked. He would grill [photographer] Jonathan Devich and me about what we saw on the moto bike to add to his story. He was always professional, dedicated, and extremely honest. He wanted to cover the story, no matter where it led, who was offended or pissed off.

He wanted to tell the truth.

If there was a story the race organizer didn’t want the press to cover or ask about, you could bet that Pat’s arm would shoot up and it would be the first thing he asked in the presser. But mostly, he wanted to write about the racing and the people in the races. The riders, the managers, the officials and organizers. He loved it all, and wanted to share it with his readers. He was a tireless promoter of domestic cycling, and covered as many races in person as the budget would allow. Pat knew the riders personally, and would be there at the end of the race, in 100-degree heat or rainstorms, to talk to them and ask about their stories.

It made a difference, and many riders opened up to him and told stories no one else could get. Pat’s persistence and determination were legendary. His interview with Jens Voigt at the end of the ATOC is classic, and showed how Pat wouldn’t let a little adversity put him off. He kept at it, got a great interview, and he and Jens became friends.

In the past few months, Pat had rediscovered his love of the bike, and was riding every day the weather would allow. It brought him back to his roots as a bike messenger in Portland, and he loved the freedom and exercise. Lately, he would get up early and ride down to the river by his house and take photos of the sunrise to share on Facebook. Jono and I thought he was the happiest and in the best place he had ever been. To lose him so suddenly is cruel, but we know he is in a good place.

We will all miss him, and cycling will miss him and his stories.

Malach interviewing Katie Hall at the Colorado Classic. Photo: Guillermo Rojas

James Raia

A few years ago at the Tour of Alberta, Pat Malach and I shared a multi-hour ride from the Edmonton Airport to the start of the race. We arrived after a monotonous, late-night, five-hour haul. It was cold, windy, and dark and our rental car got whipped across the road a few times.

We talked, shared driving responsibilities, and finally had a late-night meet-up with a hearty crew of other journalists, race staff, and team personnel in the resort’s pub and grill.

The mood was festive, mostly because everyone had arrived safely after the same wicked drive. Rounds of drinks and pizzas and nachos were shared among friends and strangers, and no one seemed know who paid for it.

Like Pat and everyone else, I was happy to be in the mix of the cycling community and with another race about to unfold the next day. It was family on the road and even on crummy days and nights, it was good. It’s always been good.

But it’s different now. Sean Weide is gone, as is Doug Pensinger, and Paul Sherwen, and now Pat Malach. They’re icons, all.

I’d known Pat for several years before our nasty Canadian trek. But it was the first time just the two of us had traveled together well into the night. Talking is good in those situations. The passenger keeps the driver awake; the driver responds to the passenger to remain alert.

Pat and I had a few things in common. Like me, his journalism career began while covering mainstream sports. We knew about Friday night office shifts and taking high school scores over the phone. And we knew of writing fast game stories in freezing cold press boxes from self-kept statistics.

Pat liked southern rock-and-roll and he chided me often for my fondness for the Grateful Dead. On our drive, deep into Canada to near Jasper National Park, I remembering saying how creative the band was and how redneck Pat must be to like all those angry southern guys and their conservative ways.

It was great fun to tease each other. Pat was witty and stubborn and he usually got the best of me, including his memorable line about The Dead: “They’re freaks with lousy voices and badly tuned instruments.”

Pat teased me often about writing too many articles on Evan Huffman and Neilson Powless, and the riders from Sacramento, where I live. I teased Pat about his vast collection of Chris Horner articles. It was all good fun, with the harmless daggers often accurate.

Pat and I shared a fondness for wonderful cheap shirts. He liked the casual snapper-style with bright and wide western patterns. I like the thin-striped variety with straight-across bottom cuts. Both styles are made by George, a Walmart brand. At most, they cost $10 and last forever.

For several years, when I saw Pat for the first time in a new season, I’d always say, “Nice shirt, Pat. Walmart?” And he’d repeat the same to me.

Pat was damn good at what he did. He thrived on being a reporter. He wrote the way I was taught. Less is more and adjectives are the enemy. He knew corporate BS and called out race organizers in his copy when it was appropriate. But he was fair with the sport and its riders. It’s why he was respected.

Watching Pat worked in press rooms was fantastic. He’d set out his Montana-logoed mousepad and set one pair of glasses tilted on its case for quick access. They were usually accompanied by a pack of gum and a few bottles of water. He’d put on his earphones to replay interviews and then pound his keyboard hard. The catchphrase “journalists do it daily” defined Pat.

Before he was hired on staff at CyclingNews, Pat was a fellow freelancer. He knew the hustle, and we shared that, too. You take the assignment, work hard, keep your own books, deal with not-always friendly or talented egos, and then find the next gig.

Pat knew cycling from his athletic youth, but he wasn’t a fanboy. He could be tough at press conferences, during interviews, and with colleagues. When we worked together, Pat might call me out if a missed a nuance of the breakaway or if I’d forgotten the hyphen in a team name. He could get mad at himself, too. He broke stories and complimented other journalists when they did.

From time to time during races when he was writing several tight deadline stories fast, he’d asked if I could take a look at his text before he submitted a piece. There’s no greater honor than the trust of a peer.

About two weeks before his death, Pat posted a picture of himself as he was about to leave on a ride near his Oregon home. He looked fit in his kit, and he looked happy. Pat nearly always wore a baseball cap, either from the University of Montana or a frayed relic from CyclingNews, his choice on this occasion.

I sent a text to Pat saying he looked great but that he needed a new cap. I suggested one with a Grateful Dead logo.

Pat’s response:

“Good to hear from you, Mr. Raia. Hope you and the missus are well and staying safe. I’d say that hat is ‘almost’ broken-in at this point. And if you see me wearing Grateful Dead logos you can be certain I am being held against my will and it is a signal for help.”

Rest in peace, friend.

Malach at the Amgen Tour of California. Photo: Guillermo Rojas

Fred Dreier

The pressroom and media scrum build very specific types of working relationships between reporters. You see each other often and spend hours occupying the same workspaces, media vehicles, and bad restaurants. You read each other’s writing and you follow the subject matter intensely, so you can spot the strong from the flimsy reporting. You know who is grinding away and who is lazily awaiting the press release, because you compete for the same stories and information.

It’s a competitive working environment that can build camaraderie, but can also breed rivalries and feed insecurities. And it’s why Pat Malach was such a standout.

When it came to covering the North American road scene, Pat was the best of us. He broke news like clockwork and made it a point to talk to more riders and team directors at the races than any other reporter. Pat understood that the secret to being a good journalist was hustle. If you arrived at the pressroom and saw that Pat was already there, you knew he owned a huge lead and was about to file the same story you were after.

And it was obvious that Pat was driven by his passion for the people and the sport — which is why he chased after all stories at a race, both the big ones and the small.

Now, I have been around reporters with Pat’s qualities who have allowed their egos or their insecurities to get in the way of professional relationships. You can spot it after 10 minutes at the dinner table, when the reporter starts bragging about their exclusive interview with so-and-so, or when another big-fish story gets told. Often times you find out that some anecdote they told was heavily exaggerated (hey, we’re reporters so we find this stuff out).

That was not Pat. Pat carried no ego or attitude. There was no bragging or boasting, no big fish stories. Instead, Pat was a walking encyclopedia of cycling knowledge, and a human jukebox of funny cycling stories, many of which involved Chris Horner. You got the impression that Pat was extremely secure with himself and comfortable in his own shoes. If you published a story that had required tons of reporting, he was the first to reach with praise. And if he asked you what you were working on, it was simply so he could give you some additional information, or point out a different perspective or source to consider.

After I stepped into the EIC role here at VeloNews, Pat would occasionally take me aside and speak to me about our young reporters and freelancers, offering his opinion on their strengths as well as ways in which they could improve. He didn’t need to do that. In fact, telling me how a VeloNews reporter could improve could have been to the detriment of his ability to break stories.

I don’t think Pat saw it that way.